Saturday, 13 August 2011

Perry Going Pear Shaped

If you have ever wondered what a pear based Armageddon might look like, the answer follows shortly.
Pears - slippery characters, much more difficult than your honest apple; for starters, they will not keep for long once off the tree. This is one of the reasons I decided to try making Perry (pear cider). I had a bucket full of fruit and reasoned that I should get a fair amount of juice to convert into a tasty sparking adult drink.

A Shiny Pile of Itchen River Pears

Cursory research indicated that the process could be difficult but basically employs a similar method to cider making, the fruit is picked, crushed to and pressed to extract the juice, which is then fermented. The principal differences between perry and cider are that pears need to be left for a period of about half a week to mature after picking, and the pulp must be left to stand after crushing to lose its tannins.

Quartered Pears
Also after initial fermentation, the drink undergoes a secondary fermentation while maturing. Pears often have higher levels of sugar than cider apples, which can give the finished drink a residual sweetness; they also have a different tannin content to apples.

Apearcalypse Now
We first washed and then cut the pears into quarters, then the apocalypse ensued using my power drill attached to my Pulpmaster (a stainless steel blade inside a lidded bucket) the pears were quickly and violently reduced to pommace (pulp), which actually tastes sweet and delicious despite looking somewhat like sick. The pulp was then left to stand over-night, to allow the tannins to vanish into the dusk.

My Lovely Antique Cider Press

The following day I got up early and engaged several children to help with the pressing, under the vague pretext of it being more fun than flinging Hotwheels down the stairs.

One Of my Handy Helpers

This was when the problems began; apples are nice and fibrous whereas pears seem more crystalline in structure (based purely on my observation). The upshot was that the juice seemed reluctant to be parted from the pommace and the pulp began to squeeze out between the slats of the press.

Pouring Pear Pommace Into The Press

As I increased the pressure on the screw, it began to burst out in violent squelching squirts, randomly shooting the children and myself and choking the press. This bit was great fun for the children and had them dodging and shrieking about the place. For me it was mainly frustrating, although did I enjoyed pasting them with pear pulp.

Pear Juice Ahoy!

To be honest, after all my hard work I felt slightly cheated with the meagre 7ltrs of gloopy brown liquid that was more than capable of clogging any household sieve. However, I could see redemption, if I used one gallon to continue my attempt to make perry, I would still have a couple of pints of pear juice left for the family. The kids want to mix it with apple juice, which might end up more practical than my, somewhat hare-brained attempts at creating an adult drink.

Whoops, That's Not Meant to Happen

Traditionally fermentation requires only the yeast present on the skins and inside the pears but given the way things had gone so far, I opted for the belt and braces approach of Camden tablets (to kill of any existing yeast) followed by a day’s wait and the application of specialist cider yeast. I also added one teaspoon of Pectolase (Pectic Enzyme). This will hopefully help prevent cloudiness later.

This Game Was a Bit Like Russian Roulette

After adding the yeast to the juice in the fermentation bucket, it should start bubbling after a few hours. The lid (or a dampened cloth) is then kept over the bucket for 4 days.

Gotcha! A Direct Hit.
Once the primary fermentation has died down the mixture is siphoned off into a sterilised demijohn. It is important to fill them to the neck - too much air in the demijohns can turn your cider to vinegar (which is great as long as that is what you are trying to produce).

Hmmmm! I'm Sure This Will All Be OK, Later...
Airlocks are fitted to the demijohns and leave them at room temperature until the bubbling stops. They then need to be left for a few weeks at a cooler temperature for the yeast to fall to the bottom and allow the cider to clear. Then, once your perry is clear, it will be time to bottle it.

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